Bell hails super Strauss
Ian Bell is hoping he and his fellow England batsmen can follow captain Andrew Strauss’ shining example of how to play the perfect one-day international innings.
Strauss’ one-day international-best 158 helped England reach 338 for eight under lights in their stirring and record-breaking World Cup Group B tie against tournament favourites India at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium yesterday.
He shared a ground-record third-wicket stand of 170 with Bell, who said: “It was the best knock I have seen for a long, long time - and probably the best knock I have ever seen from an England player.
“It had everything. He hit his boundaries when he wanted to; he rotated the strike; he played his sweeps - and he looked very hard to bowl to.”
England, level with India on three points at the top of the table after yesterday’s titanic encounter, must turn their attention next to a return to the same venue to face Ireland on Wednesday.
Bell, for one, will be out to show he has learned from his captain.
“It really was a template of how you play a proper one-day innings,” he added. “He has done that for a while for us now. If the rest of us can take that role on and get that big hundred it will help us in this competition, big time.”
Bell and Strauss eventually fell to successive Zaheer Khan deliveries in powerplay, and both have voiced regret that they could not quite finish the job they so expertly started.
Even so, Bell said: “I feel privileged to have been involved in that game of cricket. It’s one of the best ODIs I have played in and a great game to have at this point in the World Cup. It really has kicked everything into gear.”
For England, it represents significant progress from their anxious opening victory over the Netherlands.
“It’s another improved performance from the Netherlands, and we can move on now to the next game and put in a better performance,” added Bell.
The end of his innings was preceded by a debilitating bout of cramp - and although fully recovered today, he is annoyed to have succumbed to the conditions.
“I struggled with cramp for the last five balls or so - I couldn’t shake it off,” he said.
“I was really disappointed to get it. I haven’t really struggled with that for a long, long time. I took as much fluid and did everything I could, but the last four or five balls I couldn’t move.
“Even so the partnership with Andrew Strauss was one of the best I have been involved in in one-day cricket.”
Bell believes England showed again that they are much-improved in the 50-over format.
“We can take a hell of a lot from it. Chasing 338, I don’t think too many England teams in the past over here would have done that,” he added. “I have certainly played in a fair share myself that wouldn’t have got 250 runs, chasing that.
“When we start playing well collectively we’re a team that can match anyone.”
He is wary nonetheless of the next obstacle, and the price to be paid against Ireland if England do not play to their potential.
“We will be aware of the huge danger of that,” he said. “I fully respect the Irish team. We cannot just turn up and expect to win. Off the back of a great result last night, we need to carry that on now.
“It is not a game we can just coast. There are some dangerous players in that Ireland side.”
Bell will not be complaining if another slice of luck comes his way against Ireland, having survived controversially when he had made only 17 yesterday and DRS delivered an lbw reprieve.
The England number four made his way off the ground in resignation when a big-screen replay showed him and the 38,000 others in attendance that the ball which struck his front pad as he missed a sweep would have gone on to hit middle and off-stump.
It was only when he had almost reached the boundary that he was waved back by the fourth official, because ’Hawkeye’ technology is not considered a sufficiently accurate simulation when ball hits pad as far down the wicket as Bell’s was.
“When a decision gets reviewed you can see everything as it unfolds on the big screen,” he said.
“When I saw it pitch in line and hit the stumps I thought that was pretty much it. I wasn’t aware of the rule of how far you had to be down the wicket. I didn’t even know that rule existed.”
Bell was surprised and delighted; many others in a partisan crowd, and among the opposition, were less impressed.
“As soon as I saw it pitch in line and hit, I thought that was enough,” he admitted. “But it was a little bit of luck. Some days they go for you; some days they don’t. You have got to cash in when they do.”
Meanwhile, Stuart Broad is expected to be able to practice tomorrow after a stomach upset forced him out of yesterday’s match.